Yeah, it happened to me… what can I say? I got careless. I was sloppy. I can point to a lot of “warning signs” that things were heading in a bad direction, but I never expected it to end like this. I never expected to be in the middle of the worst sales call - and I mean the WORST sales call - I had EVER made.
It began on a seemly uneventful day. I didn’t wake up that morning and decide I was going to give poor service, sell someone something they didn’t need, or cut corners. No, I had service in my heart and I was ready to take on the world.
My first introduction to this client came from an urgent referral given over the weekend by a business associate. I was told that the client had an impending deadline and was looking for sales support. While I typically reserve the weekends for my family, I did call the client to introduce myself to get more information about their needs and timeline.
The conversation was rushed. The intensity of need was heightened by the broken conversation and the level of urgency that was exacerbated by screaming kids in the background (both his and mine). I didn’t bother to fact-find like I would have normally. I assumed this gentleman was the decision maker, because why else would he be trying to talk to me over the weekend?
Problem #1 – I was distracted. I was trying to quiet down my kids and have a productive business conversation all at once. Interestingly enough, so was the customer. He was speaking to me while at the grocery store with HIS kids. Anyone with kids knows that this is a bad combination.
Problem #2 – I assumed too much. Actually, the problem is that I assumed anything at all. Effective engagements always begin by performing proper pre-engagement research, not by making assumptions.
We debated whether we should meet in person or pick up where we left off on a call. I elected for the call and set it up for the following Thursday.
Problem #3 – I had sales cycle amnesia and added an unnecessary step. The need had already been identified and my company could facilitate a solution. Our sales don’t close over the phone. I needed to meet them in person to gain trust.
Our call happened as scheduled and the chemistry of the customer and I couldn’t have been topped. During our call the owners of the business were identified as the final decision makers and basic personalities were discussed. The customer had transitioned himself to be my champion and provided numerous insights into the practice. All seemed pretty good. We had many similarities in lifestyle and had an engaging conversation. It was so engaging that we spoke for 2 hours about his business needs and my company.
Problem #4 – I spent WAY too much time on this conversation. Two hours on a prospecting call is too much. Period.
Problem #5 – Getting to know an individual prospect so well can lead to generalizations about the bigger picture of a business. I did this. Most large-scale service solutions involve numerous departments and individuals, each with opinions and preferences. True solutions happen when you have group buy-in versus one individual.
From our conversation, we set up a next-step meeting, in which one of the owners would be in attendance. I prepared for the meeting based upon our conversation. We discussed solutions on the call and his desire was that I would prepare a proposal for the services sought.
Meeting time came and I was prepared with a full-service solution that would have revolutionized their business. Introductions began and I could immediately sense tension between the parties present. I casually ignored the awkwardness and moved forward with my great plan to help them. When I implied that I “moved forward with my great plan,” what I really mean to say is that I started talking and monopolized the conversation with my thoughts.
Problem #6 – I made myself look like a fool and damaged trust by talking and not listening! I failed to ask questions and take the time to get to know my customer more. Solution based selling can only happen with an accurate understanding of your customers’ needs and wants.
Problem #7 – Do not ignore friction between your buyers. It often signals underlining problems and is a telltale sign that you should be very conservative in whatever you are offering and saying.
The conversation continued and two goals were communicated by the decision makers. One was immediate and time bound, and the other was a general desire. I addressed the immediate need in the conversation, but transitioned several times back to a full-service solution which primarily addressed their general desire.
Problem #8 – I ignored the need to go back and forth with the customer and kept pointing to the full-service solution. While helping “steer” your customer can be good, going back and forth often signals two fundamental problems:
#1 Lack of Trust, and #2 Lack of Understanding.
Problem #9 – I created an environment of disconnect by not focusing on what the customer valued most. When pressing needs are identified by the buyer then the focus should be on those needs. Successful completion would later provide an opportunity to upsell to other offerings.
By now we were all ready to have the meeting over with. I was asked about pricing even though things were disconnected on many levels, and I provided the proposal I prepared prior to arriving.
Problem #10 – Instead of adjusting to the situation and giving verbal pricing for the pressing need only, I put everything out there and gave pricing for all our services. Recovering the relationship from this meeting would be unlikely. Now pricing was floating out there, which could risk future relationships and opportunities.
The meeting finished. I sighed a breath of relief by the time I arrived in the hallway. My senses slowly started coming back to me. How could I, someone with so much experience, make so many mistakes?!? Could I ever recover from this terrible experience?
Time will certainly tell if this relationship can be restored. In the meantime, learn from my mistakes and avoid these sales pitfalls!
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